Hiker rescued after nearly 40-foot fall in wilderness east of Salem

Hiker rescue at Henline Falls - Photo from the Marion County Sheriff's Office.jpg

A 21-year-old was flown to a hospital overnight Saturday after falling about 40 feet near Henline Falls, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said.

Initial reports state that Andrew Agnesse, 21, of Beaverton, was hiking with friends when at about 5:30 p.m. he fell while trying to climb to get a higher vantage point of the falls.

Rescue crews hiked in, reaching their location at about 8:15 p.m. They had to carry Agnesse about 600 feet to an area where he could be lifted into an Army National Guard helicopter. He was taken to the hospital about 9:20 a.m. Sunday.

Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics said Agnesse was treated and released Sunday.

The area is very remote and treacherous for rescue crews to access during dark, the sheriff's office said.

After the fall, Tyson Cross tells KATU News the hiker's friends flagged him down to get help.

Cross said he hiked to where Agnesse fell and attempted first aid. Cross said he is a former EMT and gave the hiker a down jacket to keep warm.

"It's a beautiful canyon with a bunch of waterfalls. He fell off a cliff next to the waterfalls. So about 45 to 50 feet with and I was at Tumbling Fall. So, he's up next to the waterfalls," Cross said.

Volunteers with Gates Fire Department were some of the first responders on scene, getting the call at about 4:40 p.m. Gary Swanson, the fire chief, said they found one of Agnesse's friends when they arrived.

"The guy had a little trouble describing where he was. He wasn't sure. He had managed to take a phone picture of the GPS coordinates so we began on a map to narrow it down," Swanson said.

Swanson says they tried to hike in to find Agnesse, but turned around after a few hundred yards because it was getting dark and the terrain was very difficult. There was no trail.

At least eight different agencies were called in to help with the search effort, led by Marion County Search and Rescue. Todd Shechter, president of Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit, was called in for help with a technical rope rescue. They began hiking in the middle of the night to find Agnesse.

"We made our way into the subject and along the way we looked at different places to be used for the Oregon Army National Guard to help us with a hoist using one of their Blackhawk helicopters," Shechter said.

He described large old-growth logs blocking their path along with slippery rocks, and steep cliffs. Shechter says they reached Agnesse at about midnight and began to assess the situation. They eventually set up a rope system and spent the next three to four hours slowly moving Agnesse to the clearing they identified.

"The terrain the subject was in was very, very challenging. There were lots of places where things could have gone wrong and it could have been a catastrophic incident both for us as well as the subject," Shechter said.

They successfully moved Agnesse and the helicopter lifted him out of the woods nearly 17 hours after the first emergency calls were made.

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